Local Plan meeting postponed as Enfield Council accused of ‘holding back evidence’

Decision to publish supporting documents ahead of debate appears to be U-turn after council put under pressure to justify allocating thousands of homes on Green Belt, reports James Cracknell

Vicarage Farm, where 3,700 homes are proposed under the draft Local Plan, and (inset) Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan
Vicarage Farm, where 3,700 homes are proposed under the draft Local Plan, and (inset) Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan

An Enfield Civic Centre debate on the latest version of the borough’s Local Plan has been postponed by two weeks after the council appeared to U-turn on providing key evidence to councillors.

In a statement issued today (Tuesday 5th) Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan announced that the much-anticipated debate by councillors over the Local Plan – which had been due to take place tomorrow (Wednesday 6th) – would be moved instead to Tuesday 19th.

Cllr Calsikan said this would allow extra time for officers to publish supporting documents in advance of the meeting, something which local campaign groups and opposition Conservative councillors have been calling for over the past few weeks.

The move to publish more evidence in advance of the council debate has come despite Matt Burn, of Better Homes Enfield, being told in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that “the authority considers that disclosing this information could give a misleading and inaccurate impression of the Local Plan if disclosed ahead of the full council discussion”.

But Cllr Caliskan said today: “I want to make sure that this process is as comprehensive and open as possible, ensuring councillors make the most informed decision with access to all the technical assessments that support the Local Plan.

“Therefore, I have asked officers to publish the supporting documents as soon as they are ready so they can be read alongside the draft Local Plan already published.

“I have also asked for the council debate to be moved to 19th March to give councillors and residents more time to consider the documents before full council.”

In response to today’s announcement, a spokesperson for the Conservative group said: “The council has deliberately held back information from the Conservative group and the public because whatever they have will prove it shouldn’t be building on the Green Belt whatsoever.”

The Local Plan lays out how the council intends to meet its housing targets for the borough, as well as provide space for employment, leisure and burials – providing official guidance for developers submitting proposals at particular sites.

The final six-week statutory public consultation on the draft Local Plan, assuming the document is approved by councillors in two weeks’ time, should now begin on 28th March. After this, it will need to be examined and approved by a government-appointed planning inspector before it can become official council policy.

But the document has proved controversial in Enfield since the first draft, published in June 2021, proposed an allocation of more than 6,000 homes to land currently designated as Green Belt. The latest version, published in December 2023, proposes more than 9,000.

As well as local groups and opposition councillors, the move to build on the borough’s Green Belt is also opposed by the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

On the council’s decision to publish supporting documents ahead of a rescheduled full council meeting, Matt Burn of Better Homes Enfield said: “Councillors, residents and campaign groups have been trying to get this evidence published for some months.

“[The FOI response] suggests to me that their intention was to try to get the council to vote on the plan without providing it with the evidence essential to properly understanding it.

“The claim that the evidence ‘could give a misleading and inaccurate impression’ suggests to me that either they have very little faith in the evidence underpinning the plan, or the councillors.”

The council has been working on its new Local Plan since 2018, when it first conducted an “options and issues” consultation. The period the plan covers is from 2019 to 2041.

Matt added: “Enfield currently has the most out-of-date Local Plan in London, which impacts on development across the borough. We need to move forward and to get on with building the homes and employment spaces Enfield needs, yet here we are again with further delays which could have so easily been avoided.”

The latest version of the draft Local Plan has also been criticised by The Enfield Society for its tall building policies and for appearing to override the Hadley Wood Neighbourhood Plan, agreed via a referendum last November, which calls for the Green Belt to be protected in the village.

Andrew Lack, writing in the spring issue of Enfield Society News, said: “The inclusion in the Local Plan of Green Belt for 160 houses within the Neighbourhood Plan’s boundary appears to ignore the residents of Hadley Wood.”

Defending the document, Cllr Caliskan said: “Enfield’s draft Local Plan will help shape the future of our borough, providing more and better family homes which our residents desperately need, alongside new community infrastructure to support these homes, such as parks, schools, and GP surgeries.

“This is why we have gone above and beyond when developing our plan and have ‘pre-published’ it for more than twelve weeks, before councillors vote on whether to approve it for a further formal, public consultation.”

She added: “I look forward to voting for our plan which will help make sure new homes and buildings are well-designed, affordable, and protect what makes Enfield a special place to live.”

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